"Time is the rider that breaks youth.” 17th century proverb
Building Relationships truly takes your TIME.
All the axioms apply here. Trust cuts both ways. Trust is earned. Your prior status or accomplishments will buy you a certain grace period, but at the end of the day you must deliver the goods reliably, consistently, and you should exceed expectations. Trust is entirely in your hands.
As long as you are honest and forthright, your bond with everyone will be honored. There is no difference in integrity between the civilian and military environment. Integrity is pass or fail, with no grey area. Integrity implies honest dealing, but states unequivocally that there is a consequence for all actions, large and small, good and bad. When what you say and do springs from an honest heart, people will respect you.
In its simplest form, integrity is easy. As Abraham Lincoln said, “No man has a good enough memory to make a successful liar.” It is very easy to always tell the truth. The hard part is the admission of being wrong and accepting the consequences.
Be organized. Your daily routine should contain a call list, a follow up list, a meeting list, and many different to-do lists. But does your routine contain a “reconnect with these folks today” list with numbers, email addresses, and short biographies that contain professional and personal information? Nothing too elaborate, just a notation. Keeping a running dairy of new contacts and some details may give you an edge when you need to call someone months later. Think of the impact when you call this old contact and open with, “I hope this is not an intrusion, but I know that Little League season has got be up and running. How’s coaching going? I envy your enthusiasm.”
If there is a category where compartmentalization is necessary, this is it. Do not over-rely on your computer for this networking. Yes, it is an invaluable tool, but gardeners still need to work the earth with their hands if they want to nurture growth.
It’s axiomatic that enthusiasm is contagious. If the boss does something, or likes something, it will be emulated. In the early 80’s I was privileged to be assigned to a Marine Corps battalion with a tremendous legacy, being led by a lieutenant colonel who was decorated for bravery in Vietnam. He was a stud, and a serious practitioner of military arts. To say we worked like donkeys under his leadership was an understatement. Early in his command, he started growing a mustache. At that time, clean shaven marines with “high and tight” haircuts were more than the norm; it was an implied requirement.
So we all grew ‘staches, marines and their officers. Some were worse than others. Mine came in red, and my hair was black. Marines from all over Camp Pendleton could identify the Marines of 2/5. But everyone’s morale was now sky-high, even the poor slobs who couldn’t grow one. Before deployment, he shaved, we shaved, and 2/5 was ready for anything, because we were all connected by this small gesture of good humor.
Don’t wait for anyone’s lead. Throw yourself into both the task and the people who perform them and you will be impressed with the response you receive. Help others cheerfully, even if you’re swamped. Set the example as being “happy to be here” and the whole place will follow your lead, one co-worker at a time.
There is a crucial safety tip that must be addressed before we close this section. Military people are generally at an advantage when they deal with each other. Everyone wears rank insignia, even when doing some kind of physical activity. In a military garrison environment, ribbons and badges tell others where you have been, what you have accomplished, your level of responsibility, and your general and special qualifications. Each person knows how to relate to another person on sight, immediately.
Not so in the civilian world. Everyone is equal until you see where they sit. Then the game is on. Be careful who you grunt to in the elevator, or flip the bird to in the parking lot. That disheveled curmudgeon in the cafeteria you were laughing at could be your 2 pm appointment, or your new boss.
Be generous and friendly with everyone, until they give you reason to be uncivil. Use your best judgment. The person you cannot charm should not be ostracized. The right thing to do with the recalcitrant is to “kill ‘em with kindness.”
Give ‘em your time.
Originally published in April 2016.